Mother of invention
By Diane Luckow
SFU’s Staff Achievement Award for Innovation recognizes original thinking that sparks extraordinary and rewarding benefits for the staff or university. But 2011 winner Justine Bizzocchi’s innovations extend further still, benefiting both students and the external community.
A technology manager with the SFU Innovation Office (IO), Bizzocchi’s previous 30-year career in broadcasting, television, Internet and film production has proven to be a perfect fit for helping faculty researchers and students transfer their new-media technology to the commercial sector.
And Bizzocchi’s nominator says her inventive, entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, concern for others, and exceptional networking and project management skills were key to launching numerous innovative programs and initiatives.
Her establishment of Venture Connection is a perfect example. The SFU entrepreneurship and early-stage venture-support program has provided mentoring, training and business support services to more than 1,800 student and alumni entrepreneurs. She also helped to establish the university’s Technology Mentor Panel Program, with funding support from the federal government. The program connects entrepreneurs with experienced mentors and investors whose feedback and funding can advance their business. Bizzocchi says the idea grew out of SFU’s interest in supporting economic development and a need to keep SFU and the IO connected to local entrepreneurs and investors.
It worked. To date, 42 local companies have benefited from introductions to angel investors, venture capitalists and prospective clients. What’s more, says IO director Michael Volker, “SFU has earned a reputation in the community as an innovative and dynamic institution.” Bizzocchi applauds the IO’s support for her out-of-the-box ideas, some of which she admits haven’t been successful. “But they’re always happy to look at something that can be done differently.”
Bizzocchi retired this month, but she couldn’t resist one last legacy: the purchase, customization and implementation of a software system to support technology-transfer activities for the IO. Now, she plans to spend more time with her family, particularly her three grandchildren.